PhD Studentship in Electrochemical Solar Energy Conversion

Imperial College London

Department of Chemical Engineering

Project Description

The Electrochemical Systems Laboratory in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London welcomes applications for a PhD studentship to conduct work in the area of solar energy conversion to fuel (specifically hydrogen). The studentship is funded by the Department of Chemical Engineering to design, model, build and operate a reactor for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen under irradiation by solar photons (thereby generating ‘solar fuel’). You will be based in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London (South Kensington Campus) under the supervision of Dr Anna Hankin.

‘Solar fuels’ are synthetic, storable, high energy density chemicals, produced using sunlight as the sole energy source. Solar fuels include hydrogen (termed “golden hydrogen”), which is produced by solar-driven water reduction, and various carbon-based fuels produced through the reduction of carbon dioxide. Fuels synthesised in this way can contribute towards reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Photoelectrochemical reactors have great potential as a technological solution for producing solar fuels at scale. Such reactors combine – in a single device – the functions of photovoltaic (PV) panels and electrolysers; the former convert solar energy to electrical energy, while the latter convert electrical energy to chemical energy. This approach was conceived to lower the capital cost of solar fuel production compared with commercially available PV + electrolyser systems. In photoelectrochemical reactors, photoabsorbing components are immersed in liquid media.

Development of up-scaled reactors is a multidisciplinary challenge, involving material science, (photo)electrochemistry, electrochemical engineering and optics, supplemented by numerical modelling of the complete system to guide its design and optimisation. You will address these many considerations simultaneously. Academic research must demonstrate how photoelectrochemical devices need to be engineered to avoid various significant losses caused by: large variations in voltage and current in different parts of the devices, overheating, mixing of the products (e.g. hydrogen and oxygen), optical losses due to light blockage by evolving gas bubbles and decomposition of the photoelectroactive materials. High-impact device demonstrations will serve to attract interest from the public, investors and companies. By answering some of these critical questions and developing a large-scale prototype reactor, your project will accelerate the development of sustainable fuel production using photoelectrochemical devices and bring us closer to the decarbonisation of our energy systems that we urgently need.

As well as conducting your own research, you will work with a team of researchers, providing support to their projects; and be responsible for maintaining safe working practices.

Funding Information

Salary: Approximately £17,609 tax-free bursary per annum for up to 3.5 years, plus tuition fees for 3 years. To be eligible for support, applicants must be ‘UK Residents’ as defined by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (UKRI).

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants are expected to have obtained (or be heading for) a first class bachelor’s degree or distinction at master’s degree in chemical engineering, chemistry, physics, materials science, electrical engineering or mechanical engineering.

Applicants should also be able to demonstrate excellent written and oral communication skills (, which will be essential in collaborating with industrial partners, and disseminating the results via journal publications.

Application Process

Applications should be made through the College’s online application system.

Important information about the College’s PhD application process can be found on the following page:

You are encouraged to discuss this opportunity with Dr. Anna Hankin ([email protected]) prior to making a formal application. Please cite ‘SolarH2’ in the email subject.

Supplementary Information

Campus: South Kensington, London

To apply for this PhD, please email

Before sending your email, please double check you have followed all guidelines in this listing and have included a reference number if asked to do so.